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Once the 4WD bug gets its teeth sunk deep into you, there really isn’t any other option than to start down the long and enjoyable road of modifications. For most 4WD owners, a rig direct from the showroom floor that ticks all off-road boxes simply doesn’t exist. Whether you like it tough, remote, for towing or touring; at some stage you are going to have to modify your 4WD to better suit your needs.
Of course this might be as simple as optioning on a tow pack or maybe just better lighting up front for night drives. Or, if you are anything like me, the mods are complex, expensive and seemingly never ending and I love the process more than my bank balance allows!
So then, what have been my favourite modifications I’ve made to my 4WDs over the years? There’s been so many that I have to rattle the marbles that have come loose upstairs to really remember but a few do stand out. I clearly remember getting my first set of rear drawers. Finally I had an organised system for storing camping gear, tools and recovery gear. It honestly made the world of difference to me. In that same vein, mounting my first 12V fridge onto those drawers was like a form of luxury I’d only dreamed of before; cold drinks any time of day or night…it didn’t get much better.
As the mods mount up, so too does the weight and the old school diesels that I prefer, while never designed to be performance racing machines, begin to really suffer in the get up and go stakes. So the introduction of an aftermarket turbo system has to be one of the single best things I’ve done to my 4WD. The extra power and torque a quality turbo install ads, makes driving that much easier on the vehicle and the driver. I wouldn’t hesitate to go down this route again. Likewise, the addition of an aftermarket cruise control has made long distance drives so much more relaxing; a very worthy modification.
Given that my main inspiration behind 4WD ownership is to head bush and then stay there as long as possible, I cannot understate the simple mods done to make camp life more enjoyable. LED lighting all around the vehicle makes head torches a thing of the past. A 90L water tank with 12V electric pump running to a tap means I have running fresh water anywhere. Shade awnings give protection from sun and rain and solar panels mounted to the roof rack allow me to stay in one spot as long as the water holds out.
From there I have to mention the modifications I’ve done to target improving the ride, capability and handling of the vehicle itself. An aftermarket bypass suspension set-up with airbags in the rear has greatly improved the ride over all terrains and made for far more comfortable touring. Never underestimate tyre choice as it’s that rubber that is the only thing in contact with the ground. Changing to a Bridgestone M/T Dueler 674 means I’m covered in all conditions and so far the wear has been exceptional for an aggressive tyre. Letting my engine breathe better by adding a custom snorkel has made a big difference in both increased performance a cleaner air filter, and decreased my fuel consumption slightly.
My list these days has decreased markedly with many items now ticked, however a list does still exist and given I’m an utter 4WD nut, I doubt it will ever end. The thing though, is that while there is a gadget or a mod for anything and everything out there, being honest with your needs and wants is the key to getting value for money. Sure, you can install a 6”lift and 37”tyres but is that necessary to tow your boat to the boat ramp?
One last tip, the two best value for money modifications anyone can make that will allow you to see and do more than just about any of your mates is firstly fuel and secondly time off work. Think about it….catch you out there.
What 4WD accessories do you have in your ute? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.
As a presenter and photojournalist, Graham Cahill is regarded as one of the luckiest men in Australia. Currently part of the 4WD Action Magazine team, Graham is known for his outrageous personality and passion for the bush.